In my life, music is like oxygen. 

I can clearly remember how they played classical music during sleep time at my preschool in Narwee [in NSW]. I’d be wide awake, engrossed by it. There was another kid like me, and we’d often look at each other and conduct with our fingertips. We got in trouble for that.

Tony Burke smiles, backdropped by trees and a sandstone wall somewhere in Sydney.

The Hon Tony Burke MP. Photo supplied

The first piece of classical music I remember hearing was Mussorgsky’s Night on Bare Mountain. Mum and Dad had taken me to Disney’s Fantasia, and I know kids are meant to come out remembering The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but there was this drama to Bare Mountain that I’ve always loved. 

I started learning to play the piano in Beverly Hills when I was six or seven. The nun who taught me for the first year was wonderful, but she retired. One day, I turned up with a composition I’d written at home. It would be hard to describe it as anything other than a collection of random notes, and when my new teacher looked at it, she laughed. I...